Director: Luciano Ercoli
Script: Ernesto Gastaldi & May Velasco
Cast: Frank Wolff, Susan Scott, Simon Andrew, Carlo Gentili, George Rigeud, Luciano Rossi, Claudie Lange
Running time: 108 minutes
Opening with a murder committed by a man wearing an eye patch aboard a train, Death walks in high heels soon settles down to become a more traditional sort of Italian giallo. The daughter of the murdered man, Nicole (played by Susan Scott) is summoned in to see the police, where she lives in Paris. They think the killer was after some diamonds, which her father was reputedly smuggling. She doesn’t know anything and quickly returns to her ‘day-job’ of being a high-class stripper at a couple of fairly posh clubs. It’s whilst working at one of these nightspots that she’s discovered by her number one fan, a Dr Matthews, who, on seeing she’s unhappy with her current boyfriend, Michelle, persuades her to come and live with him in England.
When she arrives in the UK she finds him in a loveless marriage to a woman called Vanessa (who looks remarkably like Nicole), so she becomes his kept mistress, housed in a cottage on the coast. It’s there that the usual weird red herrings that are giallo staples start to rear their ugly heads, including a strange manservant, a POV stalker/peeper, and a very man-like woman who gives her £5,000 to leave. Add to this her boyfriend flying over to England to look for her, and the doctor himself starting to act a little suspiciously, and you have all the hallmarks of an interesting and head-scratching Italian giallo thriller.
Death walks on high heels is nicely shot, with some atmospheric lighting – especially in the more romantic scenes – and director Ercoli makes good use of varied locations throughout, all nicely underlined by another cool score by Stelvio Cipriani – although it’s not used enough in my opinion.
As with many giallo the dialogue is unintentionally amusing and very ‘of its time’. For example, at one point the good doctor says: ‘You can learn many things in one lifetime, but it would take ten lifetimes to understand a woman!’ He may have a point, but lines like this one don’t help the subgenre’s reputation for misogyny.
As per usual, in Italian thrillers, the cops are useless and say the daftest of things. For example, one describes the killer as being ‘Jack the Ripper’, and all of them are over-the-top with their ‘Britishness’! Oh, and there’s a cop ‘bromance’ going on, and a policewoman has the unfortunate name of Penny Packer, which sounds like a Marvel character! And there are some unlikely relationship dynamics between the couples, especially between the doctor and his wife – very odd.
It ends with some fist fights and chases, and a pretty unbelievable final round-up, but overall the film is one of the more ‘together’ giallo that I’ve seen, and actress Susan Scott steals every scene she’s in with her feisty performance and character, who’s definitely not your usual sort of one dimensional, damsel in distress sort of woman.
Arrow Video is distributing Death Walks on High Heels on DVD and Blu-Ray. As per usual for Arrow Video there are plenty of special features including:
An introduction to the film by the director (2 mins);
An audio commentary with author, and editor of Video Watchdog, Tim Lucas;
From Spain with love (24.5 mins) – the director and actress Nieves Navarro are interviewed in Barcelona. It’s apparent that the actress is fond of the director and actually ended up doing seven films with him;
Master of giallo (32.5 mins) – an interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi who explains why he disagrees with writers who use tricks to fool the audience, and tells us that he’s just written a book on the giallo subgenre of films;
Death walks to a beat (26.5 mins) – an interview with composer Stevio Cipriani, who talks about how he got into composing film scores, and he also plays some pieces on a handy piano;
Trailers (5.5 mins) – two trailers, both being a bit schizo with the music used; the second trailer is under the alternative title of ‘Death Stalks on High Heels’.